Oxford University & Colleges, Oxford

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  • Fellow's Garden
    Fellow's Garden
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    The 'Cottages'
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    Wadham College gardens, Oxford
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    St.John's College, Oxford

    by evaanna Updated Jun 13, 2007

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    St. John's College may look inconspicuous on the outside in comparison with the other Oxford colleges, but don't be misled - it's one of the prettiest and wealthiest colleges in Oxford. There was a college dedicated to St. Bernard here in 1437, in which Cistercian monks received their education. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, a new college named after St. John the Baptist was founded in its place in 1555 by Sir Thomas White, a merchant and former Lord Mayor of London. The college consists of seven quads, the front one comprising parts of the 15th century college building. The best-known of the quads is probably Canterbury Quad built by Archbishop Laud in 1631-1636, where you can see the statues of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria, both of whom resided in Oxford during the Civil War. A new quad is to be added to the college soon, when Queen Elisabeth House has been converted to form part of the college.
    I wish I had known when I was there that the College Library, which is open to visitors, boasts some precious medieval manuscripts, Caxton's 1482 illustrated version of The Canterbury Tales, Jane Austen's letters and James I's prayer book. What I did not miss were the college's beautiful gardens: the Great Lawn and Groves, wonderfully shady on a hot summer day.
    The college's old members, i.e. graduates, include such famous writers as Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin and Robert Graves and not a writer but equally if not better known Tony Blair. The Eagle and Child pub on the opposite side of St. Giles, purchased by St. John's College recently used to be frequented by R.R.Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
    Admission: free (unusual for Oxford colleges)

    Photograph by Barbara Molland

    St.John's College, Oxford
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    New College Lane

    by evaanna Updated Apr 24, 2005

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    In the midst of a busy city, New College Lane is a secluded alley leading to one of the two entrances to New College. It runs between the outer wall of the Cloisters on one side and the Warden's Barn on the other. It's hard to believe this is the front gate of the college and hard to find as well in the labyrinth of Oxford streets. Above the Front Gate is the statue of the Virgin, as the true name of the college is 'the St Mary College of Winchester in Oxford'. To the right of the Virgin is the statue of William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor of England, who founded New College in 1379. The gate leads to the Front Quadrangle, where, on paying the entrance fee, a very nice warden will give you directions where to go next. I have heard this gate is closed most of the time but on my three visits to the College it was always open.

    New College Lane, Oxford
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    New College, Oxford

    by evaanna Updated Feb 28, 2009

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    Founded in 1379, so not new at all as the name would suggest, this is my favourite of all the Oxford colleges. The peace of its Cloisters with the Bell Tower and its lovely Garden dominated by the Mound make it a lovely place to rest in on a hot summer day. In summer there are theatre performances staged in the Garden and watching a Shakespeare's play staged in these unusual surroundings, can be an unforgettable experience.

    New College Cloisters with the Bell Tower, Oxford
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    The ancient City Wall of Oxford

    by evaanna Updated Nov 5, 2004

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    The Garden of New College, Oxford is enclosed on two sides by the 12th century City Wall of Oxford. The founder of the college, William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor of England, formally agreed to maintain the City Wall when he acquired the land on which to build the College. Every three years the Lord Mayor and Corporation of the City of Oxford take a walk along the Wall to make sure that the obligation is being fulfilled. The Wall provides a lovely background for the beautiful New College gardens.

    The ancient City Wall, New College gardens, Oxford
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    New College Gardens

    by evaanna Updated Feb 5, 2005

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    New College Gardens are worth the walk along the Old Town Wall. In the middle of the gardens there is the Mound, which, unfortunately, you are not allowed to climb. But, as in most colleges, you can walk or even lie down on the lawn. There are also seats in the nooks of the wall, ideal places for study or for enamoured couples seeking privacy. On summer evenings, Shakespeare's plays are sometimes staged on the lawn.

    New College Gardens, Oxford
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    Balliol College, Oxford

    by evaanna Updated Aug 6, 2006

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    Balliol College is one of the oldest Oxford colleges. According to David Parkinson ('Oxford at the Movies') the college started as penance imposed on John de Balliol (father to the King of Scots) after a land dispute with the Bishop of Durham. In 1263 he was ordered to support and give lodgings to 16 poor Oxford scholars. When he died, his widow, Princess Dervorguilla of Galloway secured the college's financial and legal position and gave it its first seal, still in use nowadays. The main Balliol College buildings in Broad Street come from 1867-68.
    The College has had many notable graduates in various fields: 4 Nobel Prize Winners (7 more were Fellows of the College), 3 British Prime Ministers as well as many film artists, like Anthony Asquith and John Schlesinger, to name just a few. The well-known writers Graham Greene and Aldous Huxley were its undergraduates.
    I visited the College also to see the scorched door from the pyres on which the Three Martyrs died (see the tip: To the Three Martyrs), you will find the picture of it in the other tip.
    While visiting the colleges, don't be discouraged if you see the sign 'College closed to visitors' displayed. It was not the first time that I managed to get inside in spite of it. This time I didn't even have to do any explaining - the porter was on the phone and did not react to me passing a number of times as I tried to get information where to find the door. Did he think I was a student? BTW, to see the door, cross the first quad, exiting by the passageway on the far left. Turn left and it's there.

    Balliol College, Oxford Balliol College turret Balliol College quad Balliol College Balliol College Chapel
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    Merton College

    by evaanna Updated Aug 18, 2006

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    Merton College is the oldest residential college in Oxford. Founded in 1264 by Walter de Merton, the Bishop of Rochester and King's Chancellor, it has kept the oldest Oxford's quadrangle, Mob Quad and one of the oldest libraries in Britain, boasting an astrolabe which is said to have belonged to Chaucer. In the college chapel, the construction of which took 200 years, you can see 14 windows with 13th and 14th century glass.
    Merton college Library is supposed to be haunted. It was near here in Dead Man's Walk that Colonel Francis Windebank of Bletchington House was executed during the Civil War by the order of Prince Rupert. We can apparently now see him from time to time walking the library, yet only half of his body can be seen as the library floor has since been raised.
    Famous Mertonians include William Harvey, who discovered the circulation of blood, Bertram Lambert, the inventor of the gas mask, the novelist Angus Wilson, poets Louis Mc Neice and T.S. Elliot.

    Gate to Merton College from Merton Street Merton College
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    Wadham College

    by evaanna Written Dec 3, 2004

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    Wadham College was founded in 1612 within four years of the death of its founder, Nicholas Wadham, a Somerset landowner. His 75 year-old widow, Dorothy, carried out this provision in his will against all odds. The statues of both the founders can now be seen above the main doors together with that of the then reigning monarch James I. Designed by William Arnold, the college is built in Gothic style but with some decorative Renaissance elements. The windows were, however, altered in the 17th century.

    Wadham College, Oxford
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    Brasenose College

    by evaanna Updated Jul 29, 2006

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    The names of Oxford colleges often commemorate their founders or various saints, but this particular college takes its name from .... the thirteenth century door knocker which takes the form of a ring through the bronze nose (brazen-nose) of a heraldic animal. It can be found in the Dining Hall right above the place from which the Head of the College, the Principal, regularly presides over communal dinner for the Fellows and students.
    The first time I went there six years ago the college was closing to visitors as dinner was just about to be served but my friend and guide managed to persuade the attendants to let us in for just a moment to see the animal. This year I went in there legally, having paid the admission fee of 1 pound. So I had plenty of time to walk around the Old Quadrangle, enter the Dining Hall, see the Deer Park with no deer in it, peep into the New Quadrangle and enjoy the peace and cool of the College Chapel.
    The leaflet you will get at the gatehouse describes the walk through the college in detail and points out the most interesting objects. Let me just mention that, founded in 1509, Brasenose College boasts such members (i.e. graduates) as Sir William Golding (author of 'Lord of the Flies' and other masterpieces), the Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie, the actor Michael Palin and Andrew Lindsay - an Olympic Gold Medalist in rowing.

    The bronze nose knocker in the Dining Hall The Old Quadrangle and Brasenose College gatehouse Ceiling in Brasenose College Chapel
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    Wadham College Gardens

    by evaanna Updated May 7, 2006

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    The quadrangle of Wadham College was gravelled at first and the lawn dates only from 1809. In summer it becomes a stage for theatrical performances, often of Shakespeare's plays. You can't take pictures during the performance so I took one afterwards. The college can boast one of the most beautiful gardens, with some very old trees and pleasantly cool on a hot day. On some days the gardens are open to the public free of charge.

    Wadham College Gardens, Oxford After a theatrical performance, Wadham College
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    Worcester College

    by evaanna Updated Oct 20, 2006

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    Worcester College lies a little off the beaten path and so has fewer visitors than the other colleges. I was shown around it by a friend of mine and its graduate, but I didn't have a camera at the time. When I went there again this year they were preparing for a garden party so I was allowed to take pictures only of the main quad, but the medieval monks' 'cottages' on its south side were deep in shadow at the time. But the college has extensive sports grounds and spacious gardens with a lake, so it's worth a walk around its grounds, which I had enjoyed very much the first time I was there.
    Worcester College is one of the younger Oxford colleges, having been founded as late as 1714. It was then that the college's eighteenth century buildings, the north part of the main quad for instance, were erected. Yet, the medieval 'cottages' forming its south side are among the oldest residential buildings in Oxford, having been part of Gloucester College founded on this site in 1283 for the Benedictine order and dissolved together with all the monasteries around 1541. On the foundation of the new college the cottages were to have been demolished and replaced by a building matching the classical buildings opposite but were saved by a shortage of funds for the purpose. They now form the most interesting parts of the college. The college has an eighteenth century Chapel and Hall with interiors designed by James Wyatt, later redecorated by William Burges.
    The lake on the grounds of Worcester College is the place where Alice Liddel (prototype of Alice in Wonderland) would come to feed the ducks. It is believed that the tunnel in the Vice-Provost's garden is the hole down which the White Rabbit in the book disappears and Alice follows him to find herself in Wonderland.

    Worcester College quad Medieval monks' 'cottages' in the main quad Worcester College Worcester College
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    Hertford College

    by evaanna Updated Nov 17, 2006

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    Hertford College takes its name from old Hart Hall, founded in 1283 by Elias de Hertford but made a full college by Royal Charter only in the 18th century. Best known for the bridge connecting its two parts, also known as the Bridge of Sighs (see a separate tip), it has some other interesting features too. Above the gate, beautifully decorated in floral designs, is the emblem of the college, which has a hart (kind of deer) in it. The French Rennaissance staircase, which you can see in one of the pictures is a real masterpiece designed by Sir Thomas Graham Jackson.
    The most notable graduates of Hertford College include John Donne and, much later of course, Evelyn Waugh, who had even been writing critical reviews of films for student publications until the manager of one of the Oxford cinemas, stopped offering him complimentary tickets for his scathing remarks about the films. Waugh's novel 'Brideshead Revisited' was partly filmed at Hertford.
    Hertford College, or rather its Bridge of Sighs has been very popular with film directors, who have tried to include a sequence with it in their films, sometimes against all logic or Oxford geography.

    Hertford College gate Entrance to Hertford College Hertford College quad Bridge of Sighs, Hertford College French Rennaissance staircase, Hertford College
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    Guided Tours of Oxford University

    by evaanna Updated Aug 11, 2006

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    If you feel a little baffled by all the colleges and University buildings, their opening hours and admission fees or find it hard to decide which to see first, join a guided tour of Oxford University. Tours leave from Broad Street, next to Balliol College. I only saw their poster this year, having visited most of the colleges by myself, so had to find it all out the hard way, but I had plenty of time to do that, unlike many visitors to Oxford.
    For more information, click on the enclosed picture.

    Price: Adults - 6 GBP, children - 3 GBP ( includes admission to colleges)

    Advertisement for the University tours
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    The Queen's College

    by martin_nl Updated Oct 15, 2004

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    Another College on High Street is Queen's College. The entrance tower is very nice as you can see. Inside there is a huge courtyard, a chapel and of course a library. The place is pretty big so you need to take quite some time to see it all I guess.

    You are only allowed to visit this college if you are part of a group. Check this with the Tourist Information Centre.

    Queen's College

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    The Clarendon Building

    by yooperprof Written Aug 8, 2004

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    A masterwork of the 18th century architect Nicholas Hawksmoor - student of Christopher Wren and designer of some of London's most important baroque churches. The Clarendon Building owes its name to the First Earl of Clarendon, Edward Hyde, whose "History of the Great Rebellion" (aka the English Civil War) was a publishing bestseller for the Oxford University Press - the OUP used profits from the book to finance construction of a new headquarters here.

    the profit of book-learning
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